Judge Leans Toward Releasing Davis Pepper Spray Report; Read the Tentative Ruling

The judge considering an attempt to block the release of a report on last fall’s UC Davis pepper spray incident has issued a tentative ruling saying he’ll allow the document to become public. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo said that attorneys for UC Davis Police Sgt. John Pike had failed to show that the report contained the kind of confidential information that California law requires to be kept under wraps.

Although Grillo wrote that’s he’s inclined to go ahead and release the report on the pepper-spray incident on Friday, that won’t happen if he sticks to his tentative ruling. Grillo will hold a hearing in Oakland on Friday morning to hear further arguments from both Pike’s lawyers and counsel for the UC Board of Regents. If he goes ahead with his ruling, he will stay it until April 2 to give Pike’s team time to appeal. Translation: That’s the earliest the report will become available.

In his 4,000-word ruling, Grillo said that most of the information collected during an inquiry into the Nov. 18, 2011 incident is already public. “The [university] Report is a compilation of public information that would have been available to an investigative journalist or member of the public who took the time and expended the effort to make a Public Records Act request, review videos posted on YouTube and elsewhere, and locate and interview witnesses,” Grillo wrote.

Grillo’s ruling also rejected an argument from police attorneys that the university’s report would violate officers’ right to privacy. And finally, he found that while there’s little chance Pike and other officers involved in the incident might be harmed by releasing a report based on public information…

“The court notes that the Incident has already received substantial publicity and that the Report is replete with footnotes that reference citations to the internet, newspapers, and other forms of media. Starting from a situation where a photo of the Incident has already become an internet meme, there is little potential for incremental harm to the Petitioners from the release of a report that consists largely of information and photographs that have already gone viral.

On the other hand, he ruled the university and its regents “will suffer substantial harm if they cannot disclose and discuss information and recommendations regarding the incident at issue” until after a full trial on Pike’s challenge to releasing the report.

Below is a full version of the report that we copied and pasted off of the Alameda County Superior Court site tonight. You’ll notice it doesn’t include standard court or legal document formatting; that’s because the formatted version of the document was not yet available on the site.

Grillo UC Davis Tentative Ruling

Author

Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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